The Darwin Awards

The Darwin Awards, a tongue-in-cheek site, to quote: “Honoring those who improve the species…by accidentally removing themselves from it!” is a fun (if macabre) site, but it points to a deeper issue: The concept behind the site (survival of the fittest/natural selection) is a non-starter for way too many Americans.

Darwin was a scientist whose 200th birthday was celebrated earlier this week, Feb. 12. For reasons I understand – but really don’t fully understand – Darwin is the picture on the dart board many religious folks aim their darts at.

OK, now I can get how some who are deeply religious might still believe the Bible to be factual – the world was made in seven days. Or those pushing creationism, who are claiming dinosaurs and humans co-existed. Science doesn’t back this up, but these folks are not looking at science. OK.

But here we are 150 years after Darwin published Origin of the Species, and in America, only 39% of Americans believe in the Theory of Evolution. The numbers go up with one’s level of education, but, of those with a college degree, only a slight majority – 53% – believe in the Theory of Evolution. (See here or, especially, here)

And we’re one of the most educated countries in the world. The best is a bare majority of our educated masses?


No one is really – from a religious point of view – discrediting quantum physics, the theory of relativity or James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theories. I’m sure some are, but not like Darwin’s findings.

Why not?

Because those other theories don’t really challenge – directly – the Bible.

Evolution does.

But the theory of evolution is based on science – it can be predictive, tested, and tossed aside if found deficient. That’s Bacon’s idea of science. That’s what science is: Based on empirical evidence, not just something that is comfortable or well-worn.

If you dis-believe in evolution (for whatever reason), work to disprove it. I highly encourage this. Skepticism is a tool of progress in any scientific field.

One of the greatest science experiments ever conducted – the Michelson–Morley interferometer experiment – was an historic failure: Its failure to discover the “ether” through which the universe moved. The influence of this failure reverberated through to Einstein’s time, and – at the time – was in direct odds to the expected outcome. This was the experiment to cleverly prove ether existed; instead, it pointed to a lack of same (and the concept of ether went back to the ancient Greeks, it wasn’t some new idea).

Science changed. And this “failure” won Michelson the Nobel Prize in 1907.

Take Newton – with Einstein the greatest physicists ever: His classical theory (note: in science, it’s always a theory – there are no proofs as there are in math) of physics reshaped our understanding of the universe.

Yet, today, we know it is – at least at atomic levels – inaccurate. Quantum physics holds sway. That may be upsetting to some, but it holds up (currently) to scientific rigor.

But Evolution seems so black-or-white to so many. Yet I don’t see how believing in evolution makes one not believe in god. Sure, it changes at least one book of the Bible – Genesis – from truth to story to explain things, but – again – I don’t think this is a deal-breaker for most.

The deeper I look at science – astronomy in particular, but just about any field could work – well, the closer one looks, the more bizarre and complex things become. And one is often left with a “how is this even possible?” feeling.

For the religious-minded, why not a complex world designed by a very powerful god? Who designed a world that we just don’t completely understand; that we may never understand.

For the agnostics, just a physical world we don’t yet understand – and may never understand.

To my knowledge, there is no empirical proof of god.

Yet, to my knowledge, there is no empirical proof (would probably have to be an indirect proof) that there is no god.